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By Andrew Holcombe
Whether you're out to win or just set a personal best these races are fun to participate in and all three present different challenges. Over the past couple of years one of the best methods of preparing for these races that I've discovered has been attainments or as I like to refer to it 'the art of padding upstream':) However attainments are not just for those who are race training. They also are a great way to get in that workout and are great for improving your overall paddling. So whether you're looking to take 10 seconds off last years time or just looking for another way to stay in shape here are a couple of things I've found that have helped me the past couple of years.
First off, choose your kayak. I've found that its not much fun to do attainments in a shorter boat. It makes it super hard and kind of demoralizing:) If you can't get ahold of a newer long boat, like the Greenboat, go and dig an older kayak out of someone's garage. You're looking for something that can carry some speed.
Second,choose your section of river. While its really fun sometimes to try hard attainments over and over again without making it (then when you do make you get an awesome sense of satisfaction) I don't think that's actually the best thing for improving speed. My ideal section of river is one that offers resistance but that I can keep moving through. Helpful hint: Make sure that its deep enough. There's nothing more frustrating than constantly slamming your paddle on rocks when you're really giving it.
Third,choose a good length. Same as above. You want to be able to paddle the entire section without stopping, then rest on the float back down. You can change the length depending on what you want to do. Shorter with harder paddling for building that acceleration. Longer distance for better endurance.
Fourth, give yourself time. Attainments don't work right away. So if all the sudden you realize its a week before the race you can go do some but don't expect it to make you faster. Put in the time before hand and you will be super impressed with the results.
Fifth, keep the pace. Keep moving all the way through the workout. I like to rest on the float back down (rather than sprinting) and start my next attainment immediately. Some folks sprint back down and then rest in the eddy. Either way rest a set amount of time and start the next one.
Sixth, set a number. When I'm in fully swing I paddle between 30-45 minutes (counting resting). It's important to work up gradually so you don't over do it but you also want to make sure you're putting in the time. In other words heading out and doing two attainments all the time isn't going to cut it.
Seventh, keep it as fun as you can. I like to this for all my workouts, so they don't feel so much like a workout:) Try different routes, try it backwards, or at the very least pick a scenic section of river:) basically anything to break it up a little so you don't do the same thing over and over.